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Leinster demolish Montpellier by 82 points in record-breaking European win

The province eclipsed their previous biggest win in Europe, set against Bourgoin back in 2004.

Josh van der Flier crossed twice for Leinster.
Josh van der Flier crossed twice for Leinster.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

LEINSTER 89

MONTPELLIER 7

Ciarán Kennedy reports from the RDS. 

THEY TOLD US they were angry. It’s been a frustrating month for Leinster, the province playing no rugby since 11 December due to a series of cancellations and postponements, while EPCR’s decision to award Montpellier a 28-0 bonus-point win for their canned round two clash remains a sore point

The province wanted to make a statement today, and did just that in racking up 13 tries in some glorious January sunshine at the RDS, a result which represents their biggest-ever winning margin in European competition.

By the 25th minute, Leinster already had the bonus point in the bag, racing into a substantial first-half lead as the visitors struggled to land a punch. 

In fact, Philippe Saint-André’s team – which was packed with debutants – were so poor and disorganised that it would be foolish to read too much into Leinster’s performance. 

However, what will have pleased Leo Cullen – and Andy Farrell, no doubt – was the intent and desire his players brought to this horribly one-sided fight right from the off.

Despite their unexpected mid-season break, Leinster looked sharp and full of creativity as they ripped Montpellier to shreds in the opening stages.

Jack Conan – making his first appearance since the November internationals – was first over the line with just three minutes on the clock, dotting down after good hands from Hugo Keenan and the lively Garry Ringrose, promoted to captain for the day.

In those opening minutes Leinster strived to keep moving the ball through the hands and continually stretched the Montpellier defence by looking to use the full width of the pitch.

Jamison Gibson-Park had a simple finish for try number two, after Jimmy O’Briens’ intended pass was knocked back by Montpellier’s Henry Thomas.

ronan-kelleher-offloads-to-ciaran-frawley Rónan Kelleher offloads to Ciarán Frawley. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ross Byrne then added a third after Andrew Porter and Rónan Kelleher did well to block down an attempted Louis Foursans clearance right under the posts, the Leinster out-half then clipping over his third conversion with ease.

Clearly determined to work up a big score, Leinster went in search of an early bonus-point try and it duly arrived in the 23rd minute, Ross Molony bagging his first Champions Cup score.

Job done, and the kettle hadn’t yet been turned on for the half-time coffees. 

That said, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the hosts. Captain James Ryan dropped out of the team due to “a minor hamstring injury” before kick-off. Even more concerning was the sight of Tadhg Furlong limping out in the opening minutes, a worrying development for Ireland head coach just three weeks out from the start of the Six Nations.

louis-foursans-and-karl-martin-tackle-garry-ringrose Montpellier’s Louis Foursans and Karl Martin tackle Garry Ringrose. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The game threatened to get interesting shortly after the province secured the bonus point, Montpellier capping their first visit to the Leinster 22 with a try – Masivesi Dakuwaqa stretching over, with 19-year-old Karl Martin, formerly of the Leinster Academy, doing well in the build up.

They almost had a second moments later, Guilhem Guirado peeling off a maul down the blindside and slipping in Marco Tauleigne, but a TMO review clearly showed the Montpellier hooker’s foot was in touch when he released the ball. 

It would be Montpellier’s only bright spell of the half, and Leinster’s responded by turning the heat up on their visitors.

Gibson-Park’s beautiful flat pass allowed Michael Ala’alatoa cross for his first Leinster try, before Ross Byrne cleverly made use of penalty advantage by scooping a pass through his legs to play in Jordan Larmour, who had been a ball of energy throughout the opening period, but wouldn’t return for the second half after shipping a heavy blow earlier in the game.

Leinster went into the sheds 40-7 up, which presented an interesting situation for Cullen. The head coach wasn’t happy with how his team took their foot of the gas in the second half of the opening round win over Bath last month, and it was easy to envisage the same happening here, with Montpellier offering little resistance in the face of a blue onslaught.

They didn’t ease up, and within 10 minutes of the restart they had added another three tries, Josh van der Flier showing good pace in crossing for a quick-fire double either side of a well-taken Jimmy O’Brien score. 

Cullen’s next action was to turn to a strong Leinster bench, sending Johnny Sexton – another playing his first minutes since November – Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan and Rhys Ruddock into the action.

jordan-larmour-scores-his-sides-sixth-try-despite-karl-martin Leinsters’ Jordan Larmour scores his sides sixth try despite Karl Martin of Montpellier. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The changes sucked some of the momentum out of Leinster’s play as Montpellier enjoyed a rare spell of possession, but they never really looked to have the tools needed to crack the Leinster defence.

After riding that brief wave of pressure, Leinster went back up the pitch and closed in on their record European win – a 92-13 defeat of Bourgoin in 2004.

Dan Sheehan stretching their lead out to 68-7 after James Lowe broke down the wing, with the returning Sexton clipping over the extras.

Frustration began to seep into elements of Montpellier’s play, and flanker Masivesi Dakuwaqa was red-carded after dangerously crashing an elbow into the back of Van der Flier’s head. The Leinster flanker didn’t seem too stricken by the blow, but was swiftly replaced by Max Deegan.

Within a minute they had capitalised on the extra man, Sheehan scoring his second try, and Leinster’s 11th, following a powerful maul.

The 5,000 supporters in attendance began to make their way to the exits once Conan made it 12 in the 75th minute, Sexton’s conversion equally that record winning margin set back in 2004. 

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They had four minutes left to go one better. After a few false starts, the opportunity arrived when Sexton turned down a kick at the corner with a quick penalty that saw Leinster almost lose the chance down the right flank, only to rework the ball back infield, with Lowe finding the gap to seal the record-breaking score.

Sexton converted to close out an 82-point win for the province, and one of the most one-sided encounters this competition has seen for some time. 

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Conan (2), Byrne, Gibson-Park, Molony, Ala’alatoa, Larmour, Van der Flier (2), O’Brien, Sheehan (2), Lowe.

Conversions: Byrne [7/8], Sexton [5/5]

Montpellier scorers:

Try: Masivesi Dakuwaqa

Conversion: Louis Foursans [1/1]

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour (James Lowe HT), Garry Ringrose (captain), Ciaran Frawley, Jimmy O’Brien; Ross Byrne (Johnny Sexton, 50), Jamison Gibson-Park (Luke McGrath, 63); Andrew Porter (Cian Healy, 51), Ronan Kelleher (Dan Sheehan, 51), Tadhg Furlong (Michael Ala’alatoa, 6); Ross Molony, Josh Murphy (Rhys Ruddock, 50); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier (Max Deegan, 68), Jack Conan. 

MONTPELLIER: Axel Bevia (Paul Vallée 53); Pierre Lucas, Thomas Darmon, Karl Martin (Aubin Eymeri, 67), Josua Vici; Louis Foursans, Gela Aprasidze; Mikheil Nariashvili (Robert Rodgers, 47), Guilhem Guirado (captain) (Vincent Giudicelli, 47), Henry Thomas ( Titi Lamositele, 53-63); Tyler Duguid, Mickael Capelli (Alexandre Becognee, 47); Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Florian Verhaeghe, Marco Tauleigne (Nico Janse van Rensburg, 47).

Red card: Masivesi Dakuwaqa 67

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

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Ciarán Kennedy

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